Millionaires We Can Love

Back when I was 15 years old, I decided that television shows were insultingly stupid, and turned off the set for good. Maybe one laugh track too many sent me over the edge, I can't really remember. I am in my fifties now and still don't watch TV, even though I know it is considered the ultimate medium for modern, envelope-pushing entertainment. I do try to watch the occasional cable show that trusted friends rave about and insist I sample. I'm usually disappointed. Don't know why, maybe by now I've just programmed myself not to like watching the tube. This does not make me feel superior to anyone; it's just not my thing.

Reality TV in particular has me scratching my head. I actually know people who watch Real Housewives of Atlanta, and I swear they must be high on crack. What in the world? I'm supposed to be entertained by that? I lasted about five minutes; by then the pain was too extreme!

And then a casting director friend of mine, who often works for reality TV productions, told me about a CNBC docu-series called American Made that's coming to a TV set near you, and it actually piqued my interest! Maybe it's because I'm a hard-working small business owner but it sounded great. The show plans to profile self-made millionaires, but not the kind you might imagine. Instead of your over-profiled, overnight tech millionaires or the white collar corporate types making fat bonuses in their sleep from intangible products like derivatives and other "financial instruments," this series plans to feature self-made success stories from the blue-collar trenches. Some of the people they've already got lined up sounded like unique individuals with true, inspirational chops.

So the suspicious and reality-show-averse skeptic in me asked her why any millionaire would want to be bothered with doing a show like this? Aren't they too busy running their businesses? "Well, for starters," she said, "these are smart business people, and their companies are going to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in free publicity." Duh. "And the people we've been talking to are eager to pass on the message that it's okay to dream big! That if they can make it, anyone can."

Well, that's a message I can get behind. My husband and I started our small business 17 years ago without much cash and a lot of enthusiasm. Today, while we are not millionaires, and still confront the struggles and challenges of any small business owner, we live well. A lot of that has to do with the privilege of being self-employed, which affords us the opportunity to sketch out the quality of life we want for ourselves. And our business, which pays the bills, allows us the freedom to pursue our creative projects without stress--I'm an author, my husband is a sculptor.

Damn, now I wish we could get on that show! Have to be a millionaire first, though. The folks at American Made are looking for blue-collar success stories from the service industry, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, manual labor, infrastructure sectors and anything in between. I thought this was information worth passing along. If you're someone who built your business from the ground up, or if you have relatives or friends who fit the bill, I say let these guys know about you! We can use some working class heroes.